In 2010, after the BP oil spill, there was no shortage of moral support for the Gulf Coast. But few people could take time off to help out—unless they worked at Patagonia (#38), which sent seven volunteer teams of ten people each to work with nonprofits assessing the spill’s impact. The outdoor-apparel maker covered team members’ travel and living expenses for a week (and paid their regular salaries on top of that).
Patagonia was a pioneer in corporate responsibility, but these days numerous companies are seeing the benefits—good PR, energized staff—of empowering employees to tackle worthy causes. “You can’t have a community unless you have people who are willing and able to get involved,” says CamelBak (#44) CEO Sally McCoy, who grants staff two paid volunteer days each year. Osprey Packs (#29) has a similar policy and donates proceeds from an annual gear sale to Colorado nonprofits. Communications firm Sterling-Rice Group (#3) offers creative services to local fundraising campaigns and has donated some $1 million in cash since the company was founded.
Long celebrated for its health and fitness benefits, Clif Bar (#5) also has serious philanthropy cred. Not only did the company donate $5.9 million to various nonprofits last year, it also created two programs to inspire change beyond its walls. The first, In Good Company, sent 26 people from 11 companies into West Oakland for seven days last year to install solar panels, build raised gardens and chicken coops, and plant a bamboo forest. And Clif’s 2 Mile Challenge puts teams of cyclists in competition to log the most short bike trips from May to October; anyone can join online, and the winning team’s charity gets a check for $35,000.